The upcoming launch of an uncrewed SpaceX Dragon to the International Space Station has been postponed following a potential propellant leak, in what is a rare glitch for the reliable cargo vehicle.
NASA revealed yesterday that, as a team loaded the Dragon cargo spacecraft with propellant, it detected “elevated vapor readings” of mono-methyl hydrazine within the propulsion system. It’s not exactly clear when the readings were detected, but NASA says the incident happened this past weekend.
The space agency further explained in its blog that the fuel and oxidizer were unloaded from the offending portion of the spacecraft to enable a more thorough analysis, adding that SpaceX and NASA officials met yesterday to discuss the issue. This means that the launch of the Dragon to the ISS, scheduled for this weekend, has been scrapped. Womp womp.
“Once the exact source of the elevated readings is identified and cause is determined, the joint NASA and SpaceX teams will determine and announce a new target launch date,” NASA’s said on its blog.
The SpaceX Dragon, which went into use 10 years ago, uses Draco thrusters, which rely on MMH fuel and nitrogen tetroxide as an oxidizer, according to SpaceNews. Dragons are equipped with 16 Draco thrusters in order to maneuver the spacecraft.
The CRS-25 resupply mission is slated to bring over two tons (1,800 kilograms) of supplies to the International Space Station. As NASA notes, the Dragon spacecraft will (eventually) deliver:
new science investigations, supplies, and equipment for the international crew, including a study of immune aging and potential for reversing those effects. One of the primary payloads aboard the cargo flight is the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation or EMIT. This tool will identify the composition of mineral dust from Earth’s arid regions and analyze dust carried through the atmosphere from deserts to see what effects it has on the planet, further advancing NASA’s data contributions to monitoring climate change. It also will carry an investigation from a team of students at Stanford University that will test the process of creating biopolymer soil composite, a concrete alternative, in microgravity.
The current crew on board the ISS will have to wait for these goodies, and hopefully for not much longer.
Last month, SpaceX revealed the design of its next generation of Starlink satellites, which will add to CEO Elon Musk’s vision of constellation of tens of thousands of internet satellites. But Musk’s plans for SpaceX are not without their faults. Last week Musk announced his plans to send one million people to Mars by 2050, which will almost definitely not happen under the given timeline.